For fans of the original 'proof of concept' title Portal, it goes without saying that Valve is well aware that the pairing of intelligent and witty writing with compelling gameplay is a recipe for success. The main source of comedy and storytelling in the first game was the artificial intelligence named GlaDOS, but with the upcoming sequel, the game's length won't be the only thing being increased exponentially. According to IGN's video preview, Portal 2 will be giving players over 13,000 lines of dialogue to go along with their physics-bending.
Since the plot of the game seems straightforward enough - once again, attempt to complete the tasks set out by the somewhat callous robotic overseer - we have to wonder where the dialogue will be focused.
There's no question that Stephen Merchant's addition to the voice cast as that of Wheatley, Chell's floating personality sphere/guide will produce a good chunk of conversation. But that is a hefty chunk of writing for a game that seems to be expanding on previous game mechanics in a big way, so that can't be the whole story.
If the writing is going to be giving us the details on plot that Valve seems to be witholding, then that means explaining the time between games, and the current state of the Aperture Science facility.
If you don't already know what we're talking about, take a look at the new bits of gameplay footage on display in the latest sneak peek video:
While most games resort to character voice-over or cutscenes for exposition, Portal 2 left the story and plot to player conclusions, suspicious advice given by a disembodied voice, and wall paintings scrawled by mysterious inhabitants. From the various wall paintings and symbols that adorn the broken-down facility, it would seem that the same mysterious and subtle forms of storytelling will be adopted for the sequel.
Since a massive open-world game like Fallout 3 had around 40,000 lines of dialogue, it might be a safe assumption that a straightforward puzzle action game like Portal 2 would have to be jam-packed with conversations to make up a quarter of that amount. Perhaps the massive size of the script is another indication that the co-op campaign will be a story all its own, after the robotic duo made their way onto the game's cover.
From the few glimpses of the subtext-rich environments in the above video, and the information we've already received, it's clear that Portal 2 will be more of a full-fledged sequel than many had expected. We have no idea how the sequel is connected to the original, but all the shots of the overgrown facility only add to our anticipation.
If you have any ideas or theories on what the secret of Portal 2 will turn out to be we'd be happy to hear them, but the suspense of not knowing is the best kind of torture we can imagine. We still could have done without the delay, but odds are it will be worth the wait.
We'll find out if the cake was the truth after all, possibly by way of an hour-long cutscene, when Portal 2 is released for the PC, Mac, PS3, and Xbox 360 on April 19, 2011